Group sues Meredith over wind law

Group sues Meredith over wind law

Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau

The members of the Meredith Defense Fund are bringing legal action against the Meredith Town Board to overturn the town's law governing wind power.

Billie Kunzang, Meredith Defense Fund president, said the group of four women filed an Article 78 to attempt to annul Local Law #4.

Meredith Supervisor Frank Bachler said he was served with the papers just before the Meredith Town Board meeting Tuesday.

"It's too bad," Bachler said Thursday. "This is going to raise our taxes and it's unbelievable how much we have already spent on legal fees this year."

Bachler said the town has spent about $21,000 on attorney fees in 2007.

"We have tried to be careful about the way we wrote the law because we suspected we would have a lawsuit either from a developer or from a group like this," Bachler said. "I am very comfortable that we have a good law that was carefully put together."

Bachler, who isn't running for re-election, added that "after Dec. 31 it won't be my problem, but it will be the town's problem."

Meredith Defense Fund members are Kunzang, Rosemary Throssell, Melissa Wakin-Mostert and Viviana McCarthy.

Kunzang said the group hired Albany attorney Peter Henner because "nothing was being done on the legal front to hold Meredith officials accountable."

McCarthy said 82 residents of Meredith are also listed in the action as plaintiffs.

The group said they filed the Article 78 for the following reasons:

ä The town board's failure to comply with the provisions of municipal home rule law.

ä Failure to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

ä Conflict of interest.

ä Determination to enact Local Law #4 is arbitrary and capricious and the law is fully unconstitutional.

Kunzel said a hearing will be held in Otsego County Court in Cooperstown on Dec. 7.

Meredith town attorney Rosemary Nichols said Thursday that she had not yet seen the paperwork.

"We knew it was coming," Nichols said. "The Delaware County Clerk is very efficient and they sent me a notice as soon as the hearing was scheduled."

Nichols said the hearing will be before Acting Supreme Court Judge Michael Coccoma.

Throssell said she joined the Meredith Defense Fund because "I couldn't stand by. (The town board members) need to be investigated. It's about how they acted despite tremendous input from the residents of Meredith."

Bringing the action "is not something residents wanted to do, to file a lawsuit," McCarthy added.

Kunzang said the issue of wind turbines is "bigger than whether you want them or not. It's the effect they will have on the quality of life."

In Stamford, an Article 78 has also been filed against that community's town board. The Western Catskill Preservation Alliance filed there to have Stamford's law thrown out, Ron Karam, alliance president, said Thursday.

He said the group is challenging the process that was used to create the wind ordinance. The lawsuit was argued July 13, and a decision by New York State Supreme Court Judge Kevin Dowd is expected soon, he said.

Karam said if the group wins, it will ask the Stamford Town Board to adopt a moratorium on accepting applications for wind projects until the ordinance is re-written with tighter restrictions.

He said the key argument in the Stamford suit was based on case law that indicates when there is a known potential project, such as Invenergy's proposal to install a wind farm, the town must do an environmental impact study before an ordinance is passed.

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Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at stardelhi@stny.rr.com.

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